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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Oregon / Washington

Catlow Cave

Archaeological site

Professional archaeological research began in Oregon in the 1930's with work done in Catlow Cave in southeastern Oregon. Much was learned about the environment and food habits of early inhabitants of Catlow Valley.

Catlow Cave represents the earliest two periods: Paleo-Indian (12,000 to 8,000 years ago) and Early Archaic (8,000 to 6,000 years ago).

Catlow Cave is located near the southern end of Catlow Valley, at the base of the basalt rim forming the valley's eastern margin. The cave measured about 130 feet across the front, 60 feet from front to rear, and about 50 feet high (Fieldnotes of H.S. Stafford, 1935). At least four rock ringed pits, interpreted as house features, were noted along the rear wall of the cave. The number of pits is approximate; there was at least one small rock ring inside a larger one, and one large ring may have been partitioned.

Catlow Cave was first visited in 1934 during the reconnaissance of the Guano Lake vicinity (Cressman 1936). Cressman noted several semi-circular rock rings along the rear wall of the cave, one of which had been dug into to a depth of 3.5 feet. Cressman examined this hole and recovered a piece of pottery and fragments of close twined basketry (Accession 11). He also noted a petroglyph on a loose boulder that consisted of a deeply cut circle (Cressman fieldnotes, 1934).

Cressman (1942:19) believed that at least some of the circular rock features were "windbreaks and anchorages for shelters." The 1935 excavation proceeded within the circular features and Cressman's fieldnotes indicate that "the northernmost ring, where excavation began, seems to have been roofed over with a thatch work cover, the nature of which I do not at present know. It has been burnt in many places... The thatch seems to be made of small tules. It is held fast by the heaped circle of stone."

Recording the excavation the following day (July 13), Cressman noted that: House thatch measured from south side to north edge is eleven feet. The thatch appears to have been heavy swamp grass or small tules. It is not woven but appears to have been loosely piled together, probably over some framework of brush. North of this thatch is a large fire site where the cooking was probably done. Between the thatch and the ashes the ground is very hard. This is pay dirt.

Cressman text and artifact images are from University of Oregon website.

Catlow Cave Artifacts (Artifact images are from the University of Oregon website.)

(Click for a larger image)

Basket fragments
Basket fragments
Tule cordage (basket warps?)
Tule cordage (basket warps?)
Open simple twine matting, whole tule warps and wefts
Open simple twine matting, whole tule warps and wefts
Open simple twine matting
Open simple twine matting
Open simple twine mat, tule
Open simple twine mat, tule
Fort Rock sandal, sage
Fort Rock sandal, sage